Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Keisha Ann Can! by Daniel Kirk

Are your kiddos off to school yet? Sprout's got another year before he packs off to kindergarten, thankfully. But a number of his friends from preschool are headed that way, so we've been talking about it. A lot. There's been speculation about what lunch box he wants (currently Lightning McQueen is leading the pack). He's asked if he'll be riding the bus or if Daddy will still drop him off. And there's been a lot of trips past the site of the elementary school Sprout will be going to -- much attention is focused on this, since the old school was recently demolished to make room for a brand-new building, due to open next fall. Just in time!

As a result, there's been an uptick in Sprout's interest in school-themed titles. We resurrected one we read a lot last summer, which has definitely stood the test of time for Sprout -- it's Daniel Kirk's Keisha Ann Can!, and it's just as cute as can be. Keisha Ann is the adorable kindergartner at the center of this title, which takes young kids through a typical school day. We see Keisha Ann catching the school bus, lining up with her friends, feeding the class pet (it's a bunny). She gets to paint, play with blocks, have quiet time, count coins. It's a great introduction to what kindergarten looks like, all cheerfully and fearlessly navigated by Keisha Ann.

There's a lot to love about this title, not least of which is the fact that the main character is African American, but it's completely incidental to the storyline. As I've said many times, there's a huge need for this type of book, not just for children of color, but for white children as well. By including books with non-white characters in a home or school collection, we're exposing all kids to a much broader array of heros, and breaking down stereotypes. I love that in this title, there's a diverse group of kids featured in the classroom as well as with the adults. It's a nice slice of life, demonstrating that a book with diverse characters doesn't have to be issues-heavy or serious in tone.

And let me tell you, if your kiddo isn't chomping at the bit to head off to kindergarten before you read Keisha Ann Can!, he or she will be after you flip through this fun book. Honestly, I want to spend a day in a kindergarten class after reading this one. Best of all, the whole tone throughout is upbeat and cheery. This isn't the one to choose if you're looking for a discussion of anxiety about the first day, or how to overcome nerves. There's absolutely a place for books like that, but if you want a book that just affirms how FUN school can be, this is a great choice. Keisha Ann rolls through her day with joy, and it shows - the confidence this girl exudes is infectious. Sprout totally loves calling out the line that's repeated like a refrain throughout - Keisha Ann can!

Maybe we're not on our way to kindergarten this year, but you'd better believe we'll be rereading this one next August, as we prepare to send Sprout off to the big leagues. He's excited to do all the things he's seen Keisha Ann do - and even more, because that's just how he rolls.

Keisha Ann Can! by Daniel Kirk, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons
Ages 3-6
Source: Library
Sample: "Who can paint a picture, and sign it with her name? / Who can guess what words are missing in a rhyming game? / Who wants to make a storybook and comes up with a plan? / Who can share with all her classmates? Keisha Ann can!"

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